November 1, 2017 | Georgia Tech, Atlanta, GA

In late September, two teachers from Griffin-Spalding County Schools participating in the Georgia Tech AMP-IT-UP program were given an opportunity to join a research expedition in the Gulf of Mexico. Cheryl Wilder from Kennedy Road Middle School and Kathy Duke from Rehoboth Road Middle School are seventh-grade life science teachers that received the chance to experience real-world research with ECOGIG (Ecosystem Impacts of Oil and Gas Inputs in the Gulf,) an organization founded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. The research was relevant not only for the teachers but also for their students, who have been studying AMP-IT-UP curriculum modules on the Gulf ecosystems.

The AMP-IT-UP (Advanced Manufacturing and Prototyping Integrated to Unlock Potential) program is a multi-year NSF Math and Science Partnership whose mission is to cultivate the next generation of creative science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) innovators. It is a collaborative partnership between Georgia Tech and Griffin-Spalding County Schools. The Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing (CEISMC) has partnered with the School of Mechanical Engineering to design math and science modules that bring advanced manufacturing and STEM themes to middle and high school classrooms; for example, AMP-IT-UP teachers Duke and Wilder are teaching their seventh graders three modules on ocean ecology, two of which are based on ECOGIG research. Each module profiles a member of the Georgia Tech faculty, connecting students in Griffin to the cutting-edge research being done at Georgia Tech and at the University of Georgia.

"I was very excited about going," said Wilder. "That was an opportunity of a lifetime – just to be a part of that whole process. A lot of times [students] don't get the science connection to the real world, and I'm hoping that through my experience, they'll be able to see that this is going on in other parts of the world – people are being impacted, the water is being impacted, the organisms in the sea are being impacted – and what can be done about it," shared Wilder. The teachers played an important role in collecting water samples on the cruise and gained firsthand experience with rosettes that measure the conductivity, temperature, and depth of water.  Duke shared: "My job was to collect water samples for Dr. Mandy Joye, who is at the University of Georgia. We collected [samples] from the surface, from a halfway point, and from the bottom of the ocean; we froze some of those samples, and they were put in coolers and shipped to the university for her to start working on her research with those samples.”

Dr. Annalisa Bracco, from the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech, is a principal investigator for ECOGIG who partnered with CEISMC to design these AMP-IT-UP modules and organized for the teachers to join the cruise. “It is not easy to find space on those cruises to help with research, and it was a great opportunity for them because they have been teaching modules specifically on that subject,” said Bracco.

The teachers traveled to various sites throughout the Gulf, including to the GC600 site, which is a natural oil seep. According to Bracco, ECOGIG scientists, including Dr. Joe Montoya at Georgia Tech, have found that there is increased biological activity in areas with natural oil seeps because the rising bubbles of oil also carry to the surface water that is rich in nutrients, which is beneficial to plankton. ECOGIG is able to measure the amount of productivity not only by measuring plankton but also by examining the amount of marine snow, or organic material, in that area; the amount of marine snow varies depending on proximity to natural seeps and seasons. “You can get it more in some seasons because you may have some Mississippi River water that contains a lot of nutrients from land, so the ocean gets fertilized, essentially,” said Bracco. While current measurements at GC600 are primarily from natural marine snow, polluting events such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill can contribute to an increase in the phenomenon.

Wilder described how going out to the different sites impacted her perspective on the Gulf of Mexico. “We went to three different sites, and it just blew my mind how you can go to one site and the water is pretty and blue, and go to another site and it is black,” said Wilder. “You could smell the oil and it was a very distinct odor,” she added. Both teachers were able to collect oil samples from the Taylor Energy Site, where there has been an ongoing oil spill since Hurricane Ivan in 2004 caused damage to the Mississippi Canyon 20-A production platform. Wilder and Duke plan to show the samples from the Taylor Energy Site to their students, who are even more excited about the classroom modules because of their teachers’ experiences.

This cruise is an example of how AMP-IT-UP is connecting teachers and students in Griffin to innovative research outside of the school district. The teachers thanked AMP-IT-UP for providing such a unique experience for educators and for bringing new enthusiasm to the classroom. “The AMP-IT-UP program has been absolutely wonderful for me because it has made me look at the way I teach science. In this way, you present students with a problem and then they need to come up with a possible solution. They gather data and decide: maybe we could have done this a better way or another way. Equipment doesn’t always work; you don’t always get the samples you need. It’s not foolproof, so they’re learning that,” said Duke. She continued, “I want to thank the AMP-IT-UP program for making this opportunity available. Not many times do classroom teachers get to go and do something like this; we were doing research firsthand and it was so impactful to me, just how I think about what they’re doing – their mechanical knowledge, their physics knowledge, their chemistry – how it all works together. It was really, really awesome.”

Advanced Manufacturing and Prototyping Integrated To Unlock Potential (AMP-IT-UP)
is made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation (Award Number: 1238089)


By Rosemary T. Pitrone
CEISMC Communications

November 14, 2017 | Atlanta, GA

Editor's Note: This story was adapted from an article by Brent Verrill originally published by the Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems

Ten Georgia Tech undergraduates were selected as the inaugural (2017-2018) class of Sustainable Undergraduate Research Fellows (SURF). Among them are Faizah Asif, from the School of Biological Sciences, and Gigi Pavur, from the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.

As paid researchers, the fellows are reviewing, designing, and developing prototypes for interactive systems that will convey the unique elements and qualities of the Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design (now under construction) and the behaviors that it engenders among its occupants and visitors. The fellows represent all six colleges at Georgia Tech and were selected from a group of 88 applicants.

  • Faizah Asif, Biological Sciences
  • Anneke Augenbroe, Biomedical Engineering
  • Leo Chen, Computer Science
  • Braden Gilleland, Mechanical Engineering
  • Kian Halim, Computational Media
  • Dongyuan He, Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Hayden Mcleod, Business Administration
  • Ellen Murphy, Environmental Engineering
  • Gigi Pavur, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
  • Benjamin Tasistro-Hart, Architecture

Through their research, the fellows are learning about Living Buildings, performance dashboards, systems and complexity, and the design of human interfaces. Their work is being facilitated by Michael Chang, deputy director of the Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems, and Dana Hartley, undergraduate program coordinator of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. This project will serve as the basis for a new Vertically Integrated Project (VIP), which allows undergraduates to earn academic credits by working on faculty-led research projects over multiple semesters, with students participating for up to three years.

December 4, 2017 | Atlanta, GA

If you are serious about a career in astrobiology research, the NASA-supported Astrobiology Graduate Conference (AbGradCon) is a must-attend meeting. The next one takes place at Georgia Tech on June 4-8, 2018. Apply now to participate. Application deadline is Feb. 5, 2018.

AbGradCon offers a unique setting for graduate students and early-career scientists interested in astrobiology research to share, collaborate, and network. Organized and attended by only graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and select undergraduates, the meeting is an ideal venue to form bonds, share ideas, and candidly discuss the issues that will help shape the future of the field. 

For a preview, go to this YouTube video.

Each meeting location is selected by attendees of the previous year. Georgia Tech offers a unique venue. Attendees will gather in a vibrant campus in the middle of Atlanta, one of the most tech-savvy cities in the U.S.

In addition to a scientific program, plans for AbGradCon 2018 include outreach events at local venues in midtown Atlanta and an educational field trip. Participants can also attend the popular Astrobiology Proposal Writing Workshop, which will take place on June 1-4, 2018.

Georgia Tech is home to the most rapidly growing community of astrobiology researchers in the U.S. From Earth and planetary scientists, to chemists and biologists, the astrobiology community at Georgia Tech, is closely aligned with the NASA Astrobiology Program and the NASA Astrobiology Institute. They seek to answer the full spectrum of the basic astrobiology questions:  How did life begin? Where else could life exist?

“We are very excited to welcome early-career astrobiology researchers from all over the U.S. and beyond,” says George Tan, a Ph.D. student in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry and AbGradCon 2018 conference chair. “We are working very hard to ensure a productive and memorable conference.” 

At Georgia Tech, the following postdocs and Ph.D. students are the organizers of AbGradCon 2018:

               Marcus Bray                    Justin Lawrence
               Bradley Burcar                 Adriana Lozoya
               Anthony Burnetti              Kennda Lynch
               Heather Chilton               Santiago Mestre Fos
               Chase Chivers                 Marshall Seaton
               Dedra Eichstedt               Micah Schaible
               Zachary Duca                  Elizabeth Spiers
               Jennifer Farrar                 Scot Sutton
               Nicholas Kovacs              Nadia Szeinbaum
                                George Tan, Conference Chair 

Outside Georgia Tech, the following are co-organizers of AbGradCon 2018:

Thomas Campbell, St. Louis University
Nicole Chase, Portland State University
Theresa Fisher, Arizona State University
Ben Intoy, University of Minnesota
Jonathan Jackson, Pennsylvania State University
Lin Jin, Boston University
Jay Kroll, University of Colorado, Boulder
Megan Krusor, University of California, Davis
Graham Lau, University of Colorado, Boulder
Mike Lee, University of Southern California
Julia McGonigle, University of Colorado, Boulder
Brett McGuire, National Radio Astronomy Observatory
Shahrzad Motamedi, University of Utah
Rebecca Rapf, University of Colorado, Boulder
Katie Rempfert, University of Colorado, Boulder
Harrison Smith, Arizona State University
Kamil Stelmach, George Mason University
Jennifer Thweatt, Pennsylvania State University

December 13, 2017 | Atlanta, GA

Melat M. Hagos was born in Ethiopia, grew up in Kenya, and moved to the U.S. when she was 11 years old.

After arriving in the U.S., her family did not own a computer, but her mother took her to the local library every day so she could read and find information for homework. “This led me to love reading and kept me interested in school,” Melat says. “I was also lucky to go to a middle school and a high school where I was challenged and uplifted. I became involved in service and science organizations that helped me see the bigger picture of what I was learning and kept me engaged.”

While in high school – at Chamblee Charter High School, in Chamblee, Georgia – Melat visited Georgia Tech several times to participate in mentorship programs. During those visits, she realized how much she liked Tech. “I also wanted to stay close to home,” Melat says, “so Tech was top of my list.”

At Tech, Melat developed resilience. She has come a long way from the time she felt despair because of a bad grade. She is graduating with a B.S. in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and is headed for a job in wildlife conservation.

What is the most important thing you learned at Georgia Tech?
The importance of having a support system and asking for help.

When I first started struggling in my classes, I thought I should isolate myself so I can be more focused on the work. I learned the hard way that whatever the problem – whether academics or mental health –  what helped me most was reaching out even when I was embarrassed or felt vulnerable.

Georgia Tech met my expectations not only in its rigor but also in the expertise and prestige of its professors. 

What surprised you most at Georgia Tech?
How involved alumni are and how willing they are to help – they have been a great resource for me.

When I first enrolled, I was also surprised by how apathetic some students were about social and political issues. I’m glad to see more students using their voices to speak up.

I hope Tech continues to invest in collaborative opportunities that bring together different majors and in community engagement, such as the Serve-Learn-Sustain initiatives. These programs are rewarding. They show how we can use what we learn to have an impact even as students.

Which professor(s) or class(es) made a big impact on you?
Bill Winders, an associate professor in Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, started me off on the right foot with his emphasis on remaining critical and inquisitive about accepted norms.

Kelly Comfort, also an associate professor in Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts and faculty director of the Georgia Tech International House (I-House), made me feel at home with her warm spirit and personal stories.

Kim Cobb, one of my favorite professors in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and the head of the research lab I worked in, has been an inspiration and a great example of how to be a kick-ass woman in academia and the public sphere.

Dana Hartley, my major advisor, has always been so kind and understanding with me and fellow friends. I’m thankful that students have her as a resource and liaison.

What is your most vivid memory of Georgia Tech?
Crying at the campanile after finding out I was going to fail a class.

I’m so proud of how far I’ve come. Now, I look back on moments like that with a laugh, because as sad as they were, they ultimately made me a better student and person.

What was the most valuable outcome of your participation in experiential learning activities?
One of the best decisions I made was to apply to live in I-House. As a ThinkBig community, I-House brings together Tech students and exchange students studying abroad at Tech.

Living in I-House helped me see Atlanta, Georgia Tech, and myself in a new light and expanded my perspective of other cultures. I made some amazing friends and now have people to visit all around the world.

I also did undergraduate research in Dr. Kim Cobb’s paleoclimate lab, using coral to reconstruct climate change. The undergraduate research experience made academia and research much less intimidating and helped me build relationships with graduate students in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.

What advice would you give to incoming freshmen at Georgia Tech?
Be patient with, and kind to, yourself. You’re going to grow a lot during your time here, so don’t let setbacks define your self-worth.

What would improve the Georgia Tech experience for future students?
I hope Tech continues to invest in collaborative opportunities that bring together different majors and in community engagement, such as the Serve-Learn-Sustain initiatives. These programs are rewarding. They show how we can use what we learn to have an impact even as students.

Where are you headed after graduation?
I will be working at WildArk, a wildlife conservation organization in Atlanta. Then I hope to attend graduate school to study environmental policy.

My time at Georgia Tech taught me to stay resilient, be a process-oriented problem solver, and seek out unlikely opportunities. 

December 15, 2017 | Atlanta, GA

Yufei Zou worked as an environmental engineer in Shanghai before coming to Georgia Tech in 2012. In that role, he provided environmental-modeling and air-quality-forecasting services to the 24 million residents of Shanghai every day. Being an air-quality forecaster in China is challenging, Yufei says. “It requires dealing with lots of information and uncertainties in meteorology and atmospheric chemistry.” To advance his career, he went abroad for a Ph.D.

Yufei learned about Georgia Tech while he was an undergraduate student at Peking University, in Beijing. The founding dean of the College of Environmental Sciences there was C. S. Kiang, formerly a professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech.

Kiang was dean from 2002 to 2006, “when China started to transform its economic development mode from extensive growth – with high energy consumption and pollution – to a more sustainable way,” Yufei says. “As a pioneer and advocate for a green economy in China, Professor Kiang built a bridge for environmental studies between Peking University and Georgia Tech. That’s how Georgia Tech became my first choice for graduate study abroad.”

In addition to a B.S. degree from Peking University, Yufei came to Georgia Tech with an M.S. degree from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He leaves with a Ph.D. in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

What is the most important thing you learned at Georgia Tech?

From the ordinary to the extraordinary. I learned from many faculty members and students that to be a Yellow Jacket means commitment and pursuit of excellence.

As a renowned research center, the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences has many professors and students conducting cutting-edge research in multiple fields – atmospheric chemistry and dynamics, air quality and health, aerosol and clouds, and climate change. Their novel findings inspire and encourage other researchers to discover new knowledge.

What surprised you most at Georgia Tech?

The lights in the library. They are always on to illuminate the diligent students of Georgia Tech.

Which professor(s) or class(es) made a big impact on you?

My advisor, Professor Yuhang Wang, changed my life by offering me the opportunity to come to Georgia Tech. I benefited from his insights and passion for state-of-the-art atmospheric science research. He encouraged me to explore the boundaries of atmospheric sciences, as well as my own potential. These explorations helped make me who I am today.

What is your most vivid memory of Georgia Tech?

The football match of Georgia Tech against Virginia Tech on Sept. 20, 2014, was my first time to watch a live football game. We were at a disadvantage in the first three quarters. But the Yellow Jackets showed great courage and resilience in fighting back from a losing position and won the game.

Besides the game itself, the joyful atmosphere – like a holiday in the campus – left a deep impression on me of the football culture and tradition in the U.S.

What unique learning activities (research abroad, field work) did you undertake?

I participated in the 2014 CESM Tutorial in the Mesa Lab of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). CESM, or the Community Earth System Model, is the major modeling tool I used for my Ph.D. research. During the week I spent in the NCAR Mesa Lab, I learned the skills of Earth system model development and application. This experience benefited my graduate research, which was focused on developing fire models and climate simulation.

What advice would you give to incoming graduate students at Georgia Tech?

Be prepared for setbacks and failures; they are inevitable for your forward path toward success. It is those frustrations and vulnerabilities that make you invincible and indomitable.

Where are you headed after graduation?

I am going to be a joint postdoctoral research associate at the University of Washington and the U.S. Forest Service in Seattle, Washington. My work will focus on simulating wildfire smoke and modeling air quality, perfectly matching my personal interests and research experience.

I anticipate future collaboration between my postdoctoral research group and my friends and colleagues at Georgia Tech because we have shared research interests. The potential to work together is high.

December 18, 2017 | Atlanta, GA

When she was growing up, Rena Ingram was fascinated by TV detective dramas, especially “CSI.” Yet she didn’t want to be a cop. For Ingram, it was the science behind the sleuthing – the gathering of evidence, the lab work that helped nail the bad guys – that got her attention.

“I had a keen interest in those types of shows,” she says, “especially when I took chemistry in high school.”

Ingram and chemistry proved to be a successful mixture, one that she thought would include a résumé-boosting Ph.D. at Georgia Tech. Once at Tech, however, she faced a mystery of her own: Why was she so unhappy? Is this level of stress normal? If she gave up, what would her family and friends think?

Counselors in the Office of Graduate Studies say what Ingram experienced is common among graduate students. “They may feel they are failing even though they are simply taking a different path,” says career development advisor Robbie Ouzts.

With the help of Tech services and programs, including counseling from mentors, Ingram refocused her goals. Instead of staying for a Ph.D., she opted to graduate from Tech last May with a Master of Science in Chemistry and embark on a different career path.

Ingram is now at Marietta High School, taking part in a collaborative teaching program made possible by a $30,000 Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship. She’s still in graduate school – at Kennesaw State University, where she’s pursuing a Master of Arts in Teaching, Secondary Chemistry. She’s getting a chance to try her own methods of engaging students, such as using sports-themed games to teach them about the periodic table.

Those students have helped her smile again. “It’s been great. Those kids are my babies,” she says with a laugh.

A Change of Scenery – and Heart

Ingram believes the seed for wanting to be a teacher was planted by her chemistry instructors at her Augusta, Georgia, high school and at Fort Valley State University, where she received her B.S. in Chemistry in 2014.

“My teachers made it fun and interesting, and that’s what made me want to pursue chemistry,” she says. After college, however, she set aside any plans of teaching. Instead, she moved to Atlanta and applied to Georgia Tech’s doctoral program, mostly because of Tech’s reputation. Naysayers also provided motivation.

“People were saying, ‘Georgia Tech’s too hard. You’re not going to get in,’” she recalls. “But when people hear that someone went to Georgia Tech, they say, ‘Wow, you graduated from Tech?’ The name alone holds so much weight.”

When she started at Tech, she believed that five years of work toward a Ph.D. would allow her to apply for a good crime-solving job with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Soon her doubts started. She knew that teaching was an option after getting a Ph.D., but was it something she should pursue immediately?

Her advisor, School of Chemistry and Biochemistry Professor and Chair M.G. Finn, knew something was wrong.

“He sat me in his office one day and said, ‘You’re not happy here,’” Ingram recalls. “I thought, are you another person telling me I can’t do this? I was not receiving the message he was trying to send. I basically told him that I’d get it done; don’t worry about it.”

Tears, acceptance, and a different destination

“Second thoughts are the product of an active mind,” Finn says. “It’s often difficult to balance the desire to change with the need to persevere, but that’s where mentors can help. Ultimately, of course, it’s the student’s decision.”

Ingram made that difficult decision after her first qualifying examination. The panel members could tell that she didn’t want to be there, Ingram recalls. “They said I presented really well, but the work I put into my project could have been better. Their focus was in telling me that I wasn’t happy.

“Of course that put a damper on my parade,” she says. “So we talked, they left the room, I cried for a minute, and then I walked into M.G.’s office and said I want to be a teacher.”

Finn was delighted. A career in chemistry, he says, “doesn’t have to be research. We need great high-school teachers too.”

Finn believes it’s his job to give students the benefit of his experience and perspective when they decide what they want to do. “I try never to talk about finding what students are naturally good at,” Finn says, “because this implies that everyone has something they’re preordained to do, if only we can discover it. Instead, I try to help students find what they want to work hard at.”

A Ph.D. is not for everyone, just as an academic career is not the only option for someone with a Ph.D. “Students can decide they do not like research, or find that the Ph.D. path is not what they thought it would be,” Ouzts says. “Students may find that the industry job market is much better than the academic job market.”

Ouzts says graduate students can experience a range of emotions when second thoughts happen. “I assure the student they are just choosing a different path – not a wrong path, just a different one,” she says.

She encourages students to write down their reasons for deciding to leave a program. She also recommends creating an “elevator pitch,” a 30-second summary, for their new direction.

Comfortable in the classroom

Ingram may still try for a Ph.D., but in education, not chemistry. In the meantime, she wants to have the same impact on her students that her chemistry teachers had on her. She’ll have plenty of chances to do that; as part of her $30,000 Wilson Foundation Fellowship, Ingram has committed to teaching science classes in underserved Georgia schools for three years.

Any worries about what friends and family might think about her change in Ph.D. plans dissolved with her mother’s encouraging words, Ingram recalls. “She said, ‘You just have to do what you makes you happy. I’m proud of you regardless.’”

The same attitude informs Ingram’s advice to graduate students who find themselves reconsidering their career goals: “Follow your heart. Listen to the voice in the back of your head. If something is telling you to go for it, then go for it, even if it’s not the same plan that you had.”

Robbie Ouzts, a licensed counselor and career coach, encourages students having second thoughts about graduate studies to speak with their advisor or principal investigator. They can also seek counseling and other information through these Georgia Tech units:

Office of Graduate Studies

The Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Faculty Development (VPGEFD)

Center for Career Discovery and Development (C2D2)


December 19, 2017 | Atlanta, GA

Zhigang Peng wants you to hear Earth’s rumblings. Kenji Bomar wants to capture the exquisite beauty of the air around objects. Jennifer Leavey would like to spice up science instruction with sprinklings of punk rock science lyrics.

These projects are among 16 that recently won funding from the Creative Curricular Initiatives (CCI) of the Georgia Tech Office of the Arts and the Georgia Tech Council of the Arts. CCI aims to support members of the Tech community who are interested in exploring the connection between the arts and sciences. On top of funding, awardees will also receive mentoring in designing, evaluating, and sustaining their projects.

A professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Zhigang Peng studies earthquakes and collects seismic data from all over the world.

One of the things Peng does with seismic data is to “sonify” them – that is, make them audible to human ears. His “earthquake music” collection includes sonifications of not only earthquakes but also of meteor impacts and nuclear tests. His sonification of the 2011 Japanese earthquake based on seismic data recorded in California has made it to the top 10 videos in Georgia Tech’s YouTube channel. By sonifying seismic data, Peng enables us to hear Earth’s vibrations that are otherwise inaudible and enables researchers to elucidate the physics of earthquakes and the processes that trigger them.  

For the CCI project, Peng will extend sonification to other fields of Earth and planetary sciences, with help from School of Music Professor Jason Freeman. “I would like to convert scientific data into sound tracks and videos that people can enjoy and easily understand,” Peng says.” He is excited about using sound, because “previously art and science have been connected mostly through images or visual products. Converting scientific data into audible ranges provides a new domain of communication.” 

An avid photographer, second-year physics major Kenji Bomar will focus his camera on air that is usually invisible, for example, the air currents around a burning candle tip or a warm hand. To capture these images, he will use a technique called Schlieren imaging.

“Schlieren imaging is used in laboratory settings to observe density and temperature gradients in fluids,” Bomar says. “The images produced by Schlieren imaging are very organic, adding a layer of sincerity to the art, which will largely focus on themes of creativity, passion, and bonds with loved ones.”

Although Schlieren imaging is primarily used in research, “the images created are so uniquely beautiful,” Bomar says. “Beauty isn’t limited by discipline. All it takes is a little ingenuity to find something truly enchanting.” 

Bomar plans to assemble the Schlieren apparatus in January 2018, complete photography by February, and exhibit photographs in April. The project will be an individual effort. However, Bomer says, “advice on the Schlieren apparatus will come from various Georgia Tech faculty, and inspiration for the photos will come from a variety of sources, including other Georgia Tech students.”

Meanwhile, Jennifer Leavey will use CCI funding to extend the reach of nontraditional means to communicate science through irreverent stories and punk rock lyrics. Leavey is a senior academic professional in the School of Biological Sciences and is the College of Sciences’ coordinator of the integrated science curriculum. She also directs Georgia Tech’s Urban Honeybee Project.

As the genetically modified clone Leucine Zipper, Leavey does lead vocals for the punk rock science band she and others created in 2013 – Leucine Zipper and Zinc Fingers, named after biologically important protein motifs – for the Atlanta Science Festival.

“We’ve written an album’s worth of original songs,” Leavey says. “The lyrics align with fundamental concepts in chemistry, biology, and physics.”

For example, the song "Entropy," which the band performed in the 2017 Atlanta Science Festival, begins with these lyrics:

          Why are you always trying to organize things?
          Can’t you understand simple entropy?
          Why put order, where it’s not meant to be?
          You can’t control atoms, and you can’t control me
          Entropy: atomic anarchy (x 4)

Leavey would like to incorporate the band’s music in science instruction. She will use CCI funding to create audio and video recordings for class use.

In a separate CCI project, Leavey will create print copies of Charged, a science magazine she founded in 2012 and is now available only online. Contributors include students enrolled in Leavey’s STEM communications class.  

The magazine encourages contributors to write personal accounts of how science or the study of science affects them or to explain complicated topics “in an edgy, irreverent, creative way.” Stories should be fun and easy to read, like those in an entertainment or fashion magazine, but should not insult the reader’s intelligence.

“I am investigating the impact of creative science writing on attitudes toward science and persistence in STEM careers,” Leavey says. Through a print edition, students will not only write but also design layout and illustrations.

Photo Caption

Zhigang Peng and Earthquake Music 
When seismic data, recorded in California, from the 2002, magnitude 7.9 earthquake in Alaska are played 200 times faster than normal, humans can hear what they sound. The primary P wave becomes audible, sounding like distant thunder, while the tremor signals triggered by the earthquake’s surface wave sound like a rattlesnake.

December 21, 2017 | Atlanta, GA

Twelve Georgia Tech scientists have made the 2017 Highly Cited Researchers list. Seven of them, listed below with the subject fields in which they are highly cited, are affiliated with the College of Sciences:

  • Claire Berger, Physics
  • Walter de Heer, Physics
  • Mostafa El-Sayed, Chemistry
  • Randall Engle, Psychiatry/Psychology
  • Nga Lee (Sally) Ng, Geosciences
  • Rodney Weber, Geosciences
  • Younan Xia, Materials Science, Chemistry, Physics

Clarivate Analytics Web of Science compiled the list, which is based on citations of papers published from 2005 to 2015. It features more than 3,300 unique authors who amassed sufficient citations to place them among the top 1% most cited in at least one of 21 subject fields.

Claire Berger is a professor of the practice in the School of Physics. Her scientific interests center on nanoscience and electronic properties of graphene-based systems.

Walter de Heer is Regents Professor in the School of Physics. He is renowned for research on nano-patterned epitaxial graphene and nanoclusters in beams.

Mostafa El-Sayed is Regents Professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Currently his research focuses on the use of nanoparticles in treating cancer.

Randall Engle is a professor in the School of Psychology. His research aims to elucidate the associations between working memory, cognitive control, and intelligence.

Nga Lee “Sally” Ng is an associate professor with joint appointments in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. She studies aerosols, including their formation, life cycle, and health effects of aerosols.

Rodney Weber is a professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. He is an expert on the sources, formation, and health effects of aerosols.

Both Ng and Weber also develop instruments for field study of aerosols.

Younan Xia is a professor with joint appointments in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Xia is widely known for seminal contributions to shape-controlled synthesis of metal nanocrystals with major impact on catalysis, plasmonics, and biomedicine. Xia is one of 20 authors cited in three subject fields.

Following are the other Georgia Tech faculty on the 2017 list of highly cited researchers:

  • Ian Akyildiz, Computer Science
  • Geoffrey Ye Li, Computer Science
  • Frank Rothaermel, Economics & Business
  • Zhong Lin Wang, Materials Science, Chemistry, Physics
  • Gleb Yushin, Materials Science

January 8, 2018 | Atlanta, GA

For the sixth year in a row, the Georgia Tech community will partake of a community meal to discuss the life and legacy of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. The meal is called Sunday Supper, even though it takes place during the workweek. The gathering evokes Sunday dinners of yore, when two or more generations of family and friends shared a comforting meal. It was a time to exchange stories, learn family histories, and discuss current events or concerns. 

Conceived by the volunteer organization Points of Light, the Sunday Suppers take place around MLK Day each year. They bring together people from diverse backgrounds to a meal so that they can interact on a personal level and discuss matters that affect their communities.

Sirocus Barnes first attended a Sunday Supper in 2012 in Chicago. “I was so impressed with how the members of various communities came together and had meaningful conversations over a meal,” he recalls. “This is a national program in communities hosted throughout the U.S., and I wanted to bring it to our campus community.”

Through the AmeriCorps program at CEISMC (Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing), where he is a program director, Barnes organized the first MLK Sunday Supper at Georgia Tech, on January 2013. Since 2014, the event has become a part of Georgia Tech’s MLK celebration events.

Barnes continues to secure funding and facilitators for the event. Sponsors include CEISMC and the College of Sciences. Barnes works with the Georgia Tech MLK Celebration Planning Committee to connect the supper to the annual theme, which is “Actualizing the Dream: The Future of Nonviolent Political Protest” for 2018. 

The gathering evokes Sunday dinners of yore, when two or more generations of family and friends shared a comforting meal. It was a time to exchange stories, learn family histories, and discuss current events or concerns. 

College of Sciences Dean and Sutherland Chair Paul M. Goldbart has served as a facilitator in these suppers and looks forward participating in this year’s event. “I suspect that everyone who gathers for these suppers comes away feeling as I do: reenergized to fulfill our community’s commitment to the full embrace and celebration of diversity,” Goldbart says. “I imagine that these feelings will be even more pronounced this year, as we move toward the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination.”  

MLK Sunday Supper is a unique event that brings staff, faculty, and students together toward Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of a society where skin color is not a factor in how people are treated.  “Meaningful conversations about serious issues facing our world, country, and community are important,” Barnes says. “I am thankful that the MLK Sunday Supper allows our campus community and opportunity to have those conversations.”

This year’s MLK Sunday Supper will take place on Thursday, Jan. 18, 6-8 PM, at the Bill Moore Student Success Center. To participate, register here.

January 17, 2018 | Atlanta, GA

Big data and data mining have provided several breakthroughs in fields such as health informatics, smart cities and marketing. The same techniques, however, have not delivered consistent key findings for climate change.

There are a few reasons why. The main one is that previous data mining work in climate science, and in particular in the analysis of climate teleconnections, has relied on methods that offer rather simplistic “yes or no” answers. 

“It’s not that simple in climate,” said Annalisa Bracco, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. “Even weak connections between very different regions on the globe may result from an underlying physical phenomenon. Imposing thresholds and throwing out weak connections would halt everything. Instead, a climate scientist’s expertise is the key step to finding commonalities across very different data sets or fields to explore how robust they are.”

And with millions of data points spread out around the globe, Bracco said current models rely too much on human expertise to make sense of the output. She and her colleagues wanted to develop a methodology that depends more on actual data rather than a researcher’s interpretation.

That’s why the Georgia Tech team has developed a new way of mining data from climate data sets that is more self-contained than traditional tools. The methodology brings out commonalities of data sets without as much expertise from the user, allowing scientists to trust the data and get more robust — and transparent — results.

The methodology is open source and currently available to scientists around the world. The Georgia Tech researchers are already using it to explore sea surface temperature and cloud field data, two aspects that profoundly affect the planet’s climate.

“There are so many factors — cloud data, aerosols and wind fields, for example — that interact to generate climate and drive climate change,” said Athanasios Nenes, another College of Sciences climate professor on the project. “Depending on the model aspect you focus on, they can reproduce climate features effectively — or not at all. Sometimes it is very hard to tell if one model is really better than another or if it predicts climate for the right reasons.”

Nenes says the Georgia Tech methodology looks at everything in a more robust way, breaking the bottleneck that is typical of other model evaluation and analysis algorithms. The methodology, he says, can be used for observations, and scientists don’t need to know anything about computer code and models.

“The methodology reduces the complexity of millions of data points to the bare essentials —sometimes as few as 10 regions that interact with each other,” said Nenes. “We need to have tools that reduce the complexity of model output to understand them better and evaluate if they are providing the correct results for the right reasons.”

To develop the methodology, the climate scientists partnered with Constantine Dovrolis and other data scientists in Georgia Tech’s College of Computing. Dovrolis said it’s exciting to apply algorithmic and computational thinking in problems that affect everyone in major ways, such as global warming.”

“Climate science is a ‘data-heavy’ discipline with many intellectually interesting questions that can benefit from computational modeling and prediction,” said Dovrolis, a professor in the School of Computer Science, “Cross-disciplinary collaborations are challenging at first — every discipline has its own language, preferred approach and research culture — but they can be quite rewarding at the end.”

The paper, “Advancing climate science with knowledge-discovery through data mining,” is published in Climate and Atmospheric Science, a Nature journal.

The development of the methodology was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (grant DE-SC0007143) and the National Science Foundation (grant DMS-1049095). Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsors.


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